Criminal Victimization and Delay in the Criminal Justice System

Devansh Sawaswat[1]

‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ –Martin Luther King Jr.

Justice delayed is justice denied, that is to say if justice is deferred, apparently it is as good as being refuted. The Indian Criminal Justice system is regarded as one of the tardiest and sluggish system in the world. The Indian Judiciary has failed comprehensively to dispose of the huge number of cases. The judicial system is unable to provide timely justice as there is a massive backlog of cases which tends to rise day by day.

Delay in the Criminal Justice system of India is the root cause of Criminal victimization in the nation. The delay causes a lot of hardships for the victim as well as the accused as the verdict is uncertain for years which causes trouble as well as predicament for all the parties involved in the case. This plays a major role in making accused a victim because for years he has to go through a lethargic process, all through which he remains the accused and not the convict, turning him the victim to such injustice.

It is an estimate that pendency of cases can never be cleared as more cases are being filed than disposed off every month.[2]It often comes as a jolt united with disbelief when the judiciary is observed in terms of numbers, but indeed they are the true picture of the present state. District courts in India account for a voluminous pendency of 2,51,16,683 with a strength of 18,125 judges.[3] The High Courts have 22,48,184 cases pending before them with the strength of 672 judges.[4]The Apex Court has the lowest number, 60,938 cases before it with a sanctioned strength of 31 and actual strength of 27.[5] This leads us to the conclusion that 2,74,25,805 as a whole, are pending in the courts of our nation. Depressing is to note that 26,73,536 cases are present in courts for a longer time than 10 years. As per NCRB Report, around 67.2%(2,82,879) of the accused present in the jails are under trial.[6] The average time spent by an under trial is 8 to 12 months, provisions of Section 436A of CrPC remains unaccounted for.

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When it comes to the number of judges in our developing nation with a population of  1.324 billion, there are at present 18,129[7] judges in the District courts, 672[8] in the High Courts and 27 in the Supreme court, 5,000 short of the actual sanctioned strength. India, thus stands at a ratio of less than even 2 judges per 1 lakh people.

Undoubtedly, criminal victimization is inescapable if the present situation persists. The victims as well as the accused would be bound to spend a significant part of their lives running behind the courts. This makes the people averse to the Indian Judicial System and it breaks their confidence in the Justice system.

Sometimes justice delayed is not merely justice denied but downright cruel.[9] The statement is out rightly true and holds high importance by portraying the actual reality.  A postman was acquitted of stealing Rs.57.60 after 9 years and 350 hearings, remaining suspended from his job, which destroyed his life and his family’s future.[10]  Quoting various news agencies, Department authorities at the post office handed Mishra Rs 697.60 in cash to distribute as money-order, Of the total Rs 697.60, Umakant distributed Rs 300 and the rest he claimed to have returned to his senior colleagues. But they accused him of stealing Rs 57.60 and lodged an FIR against him.

A bus conductor has been fighting a case for over 42 years for an allegation of taking bribe worth 5 Paisa. He has been acquitted time and again but there have been appeals thereafter, lakhs of Rupees being spent for the 5 Paisa.[11] This is nothing but sheer victimization of an accused.

Two examples portray the severity of the issue, Rudal Shah,  was arrested in 1953 and  had to remain in Muzaffarpur jail for 30 years despite being acquitted in 1968[12] and Boka Thakur, the longest serving under trial prisoner in the world, arrested at age 16, was jailed and detained without trial for 36 years in a Bihar jail.

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If the situation as such instances persist in the nation it is highly unlikely that criminal victimisation would ever cease to exist in the nation. Constant Victimization would lead to more criminal activities in the nation due to rising outrage against the procedure.

There has to be a complete overhaul to meet the demands of the existing situation. Not only one factor but many would be required to achieve growth.[13] Various steps need to be taken so as to overcome this adverse situation of pendency of cases.

We need to raise the strength of our judges threefold atleast, at the earliest without any delay. This is the prime step that can be taken at the present day until it is very late. Moreover, we also need to have more and more fast track courts so that much inconvenience is not caused to the general public. Instead of closing them down due to lack of funds, we need them to grow.[14]A time frame to decide a case shall be fixed for the significant cases like Rape etc. which has been undertaken by various nations. The accused shall be comprehended merely as an accused until charges are proved against him and must not be declared a criminal, especially with reference to media trial. It is highly significant to consider that Right to speedy justice is a Fundamental Right.[15] Finally, to conclude with the words of Lord Hewet as it is of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.


[1] Student.

[2] Annual Report2016 (Supreme Court of India,2016).

[3] National Judicial Data Grid (Jan.  2, 2017, 09:00 P.M.), http://njdg.ecourts.gov.in/njdg_public/main.php

[4] Id.

[5] Annual Report2015 (Supreme Court of India,2015).

[6] Prison statistics India, NCRB (Dec. 12, 2017, 11:20 P.M.),http://ncrb.nic.in/StatPublications/PSI/Prison2015/Full/PSI-2015-%2018-11-2016.pdf.

[7] Government of India, Annual report 2016 (Ministry of Law and Justice, 2016).

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[8] Government of India, Report on Judges of the High Court (Department of Justice, 2016).

[9] After 27 Years Man Acquitted of Stealing 57 Rs, The Times of India, (Jan. 6,2017 05:30 P.M.), https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/After-29-years-man-acquitted-of-stealing-Rs-57/articleshow/26759288.cms

[10] Umakant Mishra: Indian postman cleared of stealing less than $1 after 29 years, BBC News (Jan. 30, 2017, 08:00 A.M.), http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-25196622.

[11] Ranbir Singh Yadav v. Delhi Transport Corporation 2012.

[12] Rudul Shah v. State of Bihar,1983 AIR 1086.

[13] Law Commission of India 120th Report on Manpower Planning in Judiciary: A Blueprint, (March, 1987).

[14] As Funds dry up Fasttrack Courts Close Down, The Hindu (Jan. 30, 2017, 08:00 A.M.) http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/as-funds-dry-up-fasttrack-courts-close-down/article6324428.ece

[15] Hussainara Khatoon & Ors vs Home Secretary, State of Bihar 1979 AIR 1360; Babu Singh v. Uttar Pradesh 1978 AIR 527; P. Ramachandra Rao v. Karnataka 2002 AIR 535; Katar Singh v. State of Punjab 1994 SCC 569; Arun Kumar Ghosh v. State of West Bengal, AIR 1972 SC 1366.